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Monday, February 27, 2012

It's not as easy as they say

... but do it anyway.

Before I left on my journey around the globe, I read several books & blogs by what they call "lengthy travelers" & "slow travlers". They told their stories of how they became globe trotters, & were full of good advice on how I could do the same.

The general concensus was that we unwittingly trap ourselves in our conventional lives by saying, "I wish I could go off traveling, but..." It's the "but" that keeps us stuck in a job we don't like, trudging along day after day, waiting for the right time to go a-wandering. When I have enough money, when I have enough time, when I pay off my debts, I'll go. Most of these authors who were my inspiration said that all of those excuses are just that: excuses.

They said, don't wait until you have enough money because you'll never have what you think is enough. Don't wait until you have enough time because time waits for no wo/man. One of the most powerful things that I read was the last line of the book A Journey of One's Own by Thalia Zepatos: If I could say one final word, it would be 'Go.'

But it wasn't as easy as those traveling authors made it sound. Not in the least. In fact, I went kicking & screaming. Letting go of my old life was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Not only did I get rid of all my precious junk, but even things that had sentimental value got sold in a yard sale or were carted off to the thrift store. I took photos of some things in an attempt to hang on to the sentiments while still getting rid of the physical thing. I spent countless hours scanning old photos & journals so that I could still "have" them after I got rid of them. & before I left, I hugged everyone one of my friends as tears rolled down my face, knowing that I was giving up something precious so that I could do something amazing.

Life is about sacrifice, & this is no different. In order to live the fascinating life of a vagabond, it's necessary to sacrifice the comfort of staying home. But the rewards are beyond measure, & the experiences are irreplaceable. In the last three years, I've learned quite a lot about the world & how I fit into it - & I feel so lucky to be able to experience it all. So if I could say one final word, it would be 'Go.'

Thursday, February 23, 2012

10 Things you can do with a sarong

1. Wear it as a skirt or dress.
2. Use it as a colorful table cloth.
3. Dry yourself off. They are amazingly absorbant!
4. Decorate the room. Throw it over a chair or tack it to the wall.
5. Use it for privacy when changing clothes in public places.
6. Spread it on the ground as a picnic blanket.
7. Bundle your stuff. Tie the corners together for a laundry bag.
8. Storage. Tie the ends up like a hammock to keep your stuff off the floor.
9. Cradle your baby. Tie the ends around your neck & waist.
10. Keep warm. You'd be surprised the difference they make. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

A wonderful NZ birthday!

I've spent the last several days traveling around the northern peninsula of New Zealand with some friends from the US. We took a beautiful road trip up the coast, stopping at a couple of beaches along the way to play in the sand.

The route was dotted with lots of cute little towns, all with their own appeal. We saw the smallest library I've ever seen, with a mailbox for book returns. We perused a pub with its walls covered in visitors' personal effects: student ID cards, business cards, wallet photos of smiling families, & of course money from all over the world. We stopped at a honey farm, where we saw busy bees making honey. & finally we saw a very cool public bathroom designed by the architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. In one town, we stopped at a farmer's market & got food for a picnic lunch at a winery. The view from the hill at the vineyard was gorgeous. A perfect birthday lunch.

In the evening we boarded the ferry that would take us across the bay to the tiny town of Russell. We checked in at a quaint little hotel on the waterfront. The water is just 50 feet from our room & laps quietly at the shore. There are a handful of cafes along the water, long with a town hall and a small grocery store. The main street in town, running behind the row of seaside cafes, has a museum, a library, a bookstore, a bakery, a post office & a thrift store. Cute!

Yesterday we took a boat tour out into the Bay of Islands that promised a swim with wild dolphins - & delivered! The dolphins were obviously used to the boats full of people & as soon as they heard us approaching, they started swimming toward us, knowing that soon we'd all be in the water. The dolphins swam all around us, in front of us, under us, behind us. It was absolutely thrilling to see a huge dolphin come up for air right next to me! Before we knew it, the dolphins had moved on to another boat full of people, & it was time for us to get out of the water.

Today, I'm catching up on emails & doing a little bit of work. The internet connection is not great here in Russell, so I'll have to wait until I get back to Hamilton to upload photos.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Slow travel by house sitting

I just got back from a week-long jaunt around the North Island. I saw kiwis & boiling mud & honey bees busily making honey. I had a great time!

I stayed two nights in each of three places, bussing it between hostels as I went. I got to see a lot in a little bit of time, but I felt like I was in a constant state of upheaval. I find that when I'm on the road, I don't spend as much time to relax. There are so many things to see & do, & time is limited.

That's why I much prefer the slow travel method, where I can settle into a place & not feel pressured to cram as much as I can into the time I have. Even staying a full week in one place allows me the freedom to spend an afternoon editing photos or reading a good book without feeling like I'm wasting precious time.

House sitting is a great way to do this. I can usually stay in one location for a week or more, & everything I need is already there in the house - pots & pans, cleaning products, perhaps a vegetable garden. Sometimes even dogs & cats can come with the house.

I've been house sitting in Hamilton for the past six weeks, & it's been wonderful. I've had enough time to figure out the bus system & which grocery store has the lowest prices. I even planted my own vegetable garden with greens for a salad. It's just like home, but I can leave whenever I want. It's a nice happy-medium, & for me, that's the best way to travel.

I prefer to use friends & family to find a house to sit, but I also use Mind My House to find places to stay around the world. There are several other sites to choose from as well. Most of them charge a small membership fee to weed out the riff raff - which in my mind is a good thing.

What about you? Do you have experience house sitting? How do you find places to stay?

Saturday, February 4, 2012


My friends Alexa & Dan were in Hamilton over the weekend. We all went out to see Hobbiton, the location where they filmed the Shire scenes in Lord of the Rings & the Hobbit.

It was really cool, but unfortunately, I can't post any photos or tell you what it was like. They made us sign a confidentiality agreement to keep everything hush-hush until the latest movie is released at the end of this year.

They're so serious about keeping things top secret that the New Zealand government enforced a no-fly zone over the Shire while the film crews were there. The New Zealand government! If pilots were caught "accidentally" flying over Hobbiton, they got their pilot's license revoked with no possibility of re-issue. Peter Jackson's got some clout!

So if you want to see what the Shire looks like, you'll have to watch the movie, I'm afraid. Or you could have a look at Hobbiton. I highly recommend it.